IBM has announced it is to expand its research project in Africa by investing ZAR700 million (US$61 million) over in ten years in a new laboratory at the University of Witwatersrand’s Tshimogolong Precinct tech hub in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
The lab will focus on advancing big data, cloud and mobile technologies to drive South African skills development and foster innovation-based economic growth.
IBM’s researchers will partner with local universities, research institutions, innovation centres, startups and government agencies to boost South Africa’s emerging innovation ecosystem and help to develop next generation technology skills.
“The development of a successful innovation ecosystem is crucial to the further development of the South African economy and the country’s international competitiveness,” said Professor Adam Habib, vice chancellor and principal at Witwatersrand University.
“IBM Research’s decision to locate in Johannesburg will give a huge boost to a dynamic community of programmers, designers, developers, entrepreneurs and startups.”
Dr John E. Kelly III, senior vice president of IBM Solutions Portfolio and Research, said the company considered two factors when deciding where to place research labs: access to world-class skills and the ability to work on pressing business and societal challenges that can be best addressed through advanced IT.
“South Africa provides an exciting backdrop as we look to expand our research efforts in the region. Our Africa-based researchers are part of a global community of IBM scientists who are forging the future of our company and ensuring that we remain at the forefront of scientific discovery,” he said.
South African minister of science and technology Naledi Pandor said the country is amongst the most technologically and scientifically advanced countries in the world.
“However, it is essential to increase research and development activities in order to foster innovation and support the further diversification of the economy. We welcome IBM Research to South Africa and offer our very best scientific talent to ensure its long-term success,” she said.
IBM said the lab’s inner-city location will allow researchers to form part of a ‘living lab’ exploring the role of advanced digital technologies and big data analytics in urban renewal.
“Mobile technologies, global positioning systems, cameras and sensors are becoming ubiquitous in cities, thereby providing opportunities to re-imagine the delivery of services such as transportation, energy and security,” the company said.
“IBM’s researchers and partner organisations will develop solutions using computational modeling, Internet of Things and cognitive systems to engage more effectively with citizens and help revitalise inner-city areas in South Africa and around the world.”